Back in March of 2013, I wrote this post outlining a working definition of “doomer”:
In reality, most of the people I’ve met who self-identify as doomers are, like me, simply not invested in the American imperial project, and want to extricate themselves, when (or if) possible, from its daily machinations. They also, like nihilists, think all human systems end in oligarchic cesspools. They may or may not see the destruction of the natural world as the most important problem, but the endgame is the similar for both the peak-oil and peak-soil factions.
Some doomers conjure horrific hypothetical scenarios of other kinds, such as nuclear winter, pandemic outbreaks, or the artificial intelligence singularity. All of these cataclysms may have credence, but for me the impending water shortage seems (literally) more grounded.
I’m glad—if “glad” is the right word—to report that almost three years later, I still stand by my original assessment. I still don’t see any redemption for any component or consequence of that foundational idealogical juggernaut we call the American Dream. The “cloud” still requires cables running along the bottom of the ocean. All economies still require water.
However, my thinking on some of the strategies that result from such cynicism has “evolved,” to borrow from the parlance of our times. Occupy was both a resounding success and a disappointing—if not annoying—failure. More people are hip to cooperatives and craft breweries and farm-to-table simplicity, but at the same time, less people own more of the wealth, more people are turning to religious cults for their meta-narratives, and, well, there’s even less potable water to go around. Hasn’t everything just continued to get worse since 2013? And if that’s the case, what’s wrong with our strategies?
I’ve been thinking more lately about Bob Jensen’s notion of leaving the planet gracefully. Is it the best we can do simply to tend to a patch of earth, to make and care for a few friends, to go searching for owls and stars and melodies?
I guess in the years since January 2014, when I posted this chart of notable doomers (based on prediction for success or collapse vs. the need for/likelihood of peaceful vs. violent transformation), I’ve moved away from McPherson and towards Paul Kingsnorth (who isn’t even on the chart). And if there were a chart with people from history, I would fall between Nietzsche and Marx.
“Not everything in the forest is lovely and not all of this writing is to the taste of every reader. More voices need to be heard from ethnic-minority writers and from a wider range of identities and backgrounds. There could also be a lot more jokes.” – Robert Macfarlane, from “why we need nature writing”
This weekend I went to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco—despite my usual hatred of zoos—because I wanted to see an ocelot and deep down I hoped that maybe I would learn that the zoo is doing good conservation or rehabilitation work (I didn’t see any evidence of the latter… nor did I see an ocelot; they were hiding). What I did see, however, were vultures. They have pretty much made the zoo their home, and they litter almost any exhibit with a water feature—even the black bears’ cell (and I write “cell” because zoos are animal prisons). Oh, and I also saw a raccoon in the trashcan—which prompted a parent to say to their children, “Look, there’s a real live raccoon,” which made me roll my eyes because A. there were real live raccoons in the raccoon cell as well, and B. there are real live raccoons in almost every city alley in Texas—raccoons you can see and study and learn about for the low low price of absolutely free. But with an African tiger in the background, a raccoon jumping out of the brush and rummaging the chili dogs in the trashcan temporarily stole the show. I think I’ll be skipping zoos from here on out, as my long-held disgust with them was more than vindicated (what’s sadder than birds grounded by nets?), but if you do go to this one, make sure you go to the reptile cells and see the gaboon viper, which is an animal with patterns that I did not know nature could produce, albeit an animal completely foreign to this biosphere. Anyway, here are the aforementioned vultures, taking advantage of the hospitality (or indifference?) of flamingos:
“Specifically, what distinguishes propaganda is its tendency to undermine the very ideals that its disseminators invoke as they craft it. For example, when oil companies pay so-called experts to make skeptical claims about climate change, such experts will base their authority on an implicit appeal to the objectivity of science. But at the same time, of course, their careers as leased company mouthpieces completely undercut the aims of objective science at their foundation.”
– David V. Johnson, from “Thought Policing“